The head of the Venezuelan army has said there is no threat to the country's constitutional order following president Hugo Chavez's revelation that he is fighting cancer after having a tumour removed in Cuba.
Seeking to quell any talk of unrest or infighting in Venezuela during Mr Chavez's absence for treatment, general Henry Rangel Silva said the president was recovering "satisfactorily" and would be home "soon."
"We have seen our comandante thinner than usual but still standing. The truth is he is getting better, he's fine," he told state television, adding that Mr Chavez is still running the government. "The country is calm."
In a speech to the Venezuelan nation broadcast last night, Mr Chavez assured his countrymen that he is doing well as he sought to cool growing questions about his health and ability to govern. He said the operation took out a growth in which there were "cancerous cells."
The 56-year-old said the surgery was carried out after an initial operation nearly three weeks ago for the removal of a pelvic abscess. He called his situation "this new battle that life has placed before us."
Noticeably thinner and paler after his surgeries, Mr Chavez read from a prepared speech with a sad and serious expression. He stood at a podium, flanked by the Venezuelan flag and a portrait of 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, the namesake of his Bolivarian Revolution political movement.
Mr Chavez didn't say what type of cancer was found or give any details on the treatment he is receiving. He said it was a mistake not have taken better care of his health through medical checkups. "What a fundamental error," he said.
Mr Chavez also didn't say how much longer he expected to remain in Cuba recovering, and there was no information on when or where his message was recorded.
His appearance came after government efforts, including Tuesday's release of photos and video showing Mr Chavez with Fidel Castro, had failed to quell growing speculation among Venezuelans about his health.
Citing the president's health, the government announced on Wednesday that it was canceling a two-day summit of Latin American leaders that Mr Chavez would have hosted next week on the 200th anniversary of Venezuela's declaration of independence from Spain.
Vice president Elias Jaua has led government events in Mr Chavez's absence, and the president's elder brother, Adan, recently stepped up his public profile by rallying supporters at a weekend prayer meeting for the president's health.
A group of Chavez supporters gathered in Plaza Bolivar in Caracas late last night chanting before television cameras: "Chavez, friend, the people are with you!"
After his television appearance, some of his closest allies went on state television. National Assembly president Fernando Soto Rojas, standing alongside other supporters, said Mr Chavez is in good hands in Cuba. "We wish for him to get better soon! Onward, commander!"